By Andrea Jacobsen, Industrial Marketing, Europe, Africa & Middle East - ExxonMobil Lubricants and Specialties
At over 100 metres high in the air, often situated in increasingly remote environments, there is no such thing as a simple oil change or routine maintenance. As wind turbine technology evolves, there is a trend towards larger machines to take advantage of higher wind speeds. Given this and the increasingly challenging environments in which wind turbines operate, maximising equipment performance and durability is one of the most essential requirements for success.
One of the most important aspects of wind turbine operation is the reliability of equipment. Critical components such as the gearbox and main, pitch and yaw bearings need to be protected in order to sustain performance and reduce the need for maintenance. Wind turbine operators recognise the need for high performance synthetic lubricants to protect equipment and increase productivity, while reducing maintenance requirements. For example, some synthetic lubricants can exceed the performance of conventional, mineral-based oils by extending oil change intervals from 18 months to three years or more.
These advancements in lubrication are the result of a close collaboration between leading lubricant manufacturers and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs); a collaboration that will become even more important in the future as wind turbines continue to run faster, longer and more efficiently.
A Collaborative Approach
Over the years, OEMs have focused on developing new, more compact and efficient equipment that is capable of delivering higher load capacities. While these new units will provide better overall performance than their predecessors, the downside is that such improvements can put additional stress on lubricants in terms of higher operating temperatures and load conditions. These effects are compounded by the OEMs’ drive to reduce total life cycle costs for their products, which include reducing oil volume while extending oil drain and re-greasing intervals.
A key factor in the development of lubricants is the close contact between lubrication scientists and application specialists with key OEMs to ensure that lubricants provide exceptional performance with evolving gear designs and operation. In a two way relationship, ExxonMobil, as a leading lubricant supplier, likes to understand the equipment builders approach as they seek to develop their technology to face challenges that end customers experience. ExxonMobil also makes sure the equipment builders are fully familiar with the lubrication technology it has available today and is developing for the future.
An example of ExxonMobil’s close contact with leading OEMs was the development of the market leading gear oil, Mobilgear SHC XMP 320. ExxonMobil entered into a research and development collaboration with a major gearbox manufacturer to explore the development of a lubricant solution to reduce unscheduled downtime and maximise productivity. To achieve these goals ExxonMobil understood the need for a lubricant with a well balanced formulation that could offer exceptional micro-pitting and anti-scuffing protection, excellent viscometrics over a wide temperature range, first rate filterability and high quality water tolerance and oxidative stability.
This cooperation led to the introduction of Mobilgear SHC XMP 320, a synthetic gear oil to help wind turbines maximise productivity, which today is used in more than 30,000 wind turbines worldwide and is the initial fill gear oil for the majority of the world’s top 12 wind turbine builders.
Proactive Maintenance Strategies
Once a lubricant has been selected it should be supported by routine, scheduled maintenance of the gearbox and oil circulation system, including oil analysis. Routine oil analysis is one of the most widely used proactive maintenance strategies for wind turbines and employs a test slate that is designed to evaluate the condition of the in-service lubricant and equipment. Using routine oil analysis, such as ExxonMobil’s Signum service, as part of a preventative maintenance programme, maintenance professionals can extend the lives of both the gearbox and gear oil by detecting and acting on early warning signs such as oil contamination, cleanliness levels or increasing wear metals.
To obtain the greatest benefit from oil analysis, it is imperative to work closely with an expert lubricant manufacturer and participate in oil analysis typically every six months. Identifying trends in the data will help maintenance professionals make better informed decisions.
By introducing technologically advanced synthetic lubricants alongside an effective oil equipment condition monitoring programme, operators can look to reduce costs and maximise productivity.
For more information about how Mobil SHC synthetic lubricants can help your business, please contact the ExxonMobil Lubricants Technical Help Desk on TechDeskEurope@exxonmobil.com or +420 221 456 426, or visit mobilindustrial.com.